Butogonha dedication day - a day that will be memorable for a long time in the minds of all who were present for the school dedication. This village was in a dilapidated state just 2 years ago, roof collapsed in after a storm and students unable to afford even a pencil. That is now juxtaposed by the beautiful, new school compound and hordes of students who greeted us with a parade before the school dedication – with full brass band and an acrobatics team included!
The whole community came together to say thank you to the Hearts & Hope team and we want to extend that thank you to all who made this possible in just 2 years. Thank you to Kim Salls for having a vision for these students and enabling that vision to be fulfilled. Thank you to Messiah Lutheran for coming together and sponsoring so many sweet students that now fill the classrooms! What a joy and blessing it was to witness this whole experience.
To give you all a better idea of the “before” story of Butogonha, formally known as Namwendwa, here is an excerpt from a journal entry that one of our US staff members wrote on her very first trip to Butogonha (and Uganda!).
Unlike the strong, furnished Hearts and Hope schools, the school in Namwendwa was a rickety, stick-structure with dirt floors and no sign of furniture, let alone textbooks or other school supplies. Instead of clean uniforms, many of the children were wearing shirts that were ripped and torn, revealing bellies bloated by deep hunger. As I looked around the smiling faces and sparse structures, my mind couldn't help but start to wander.
The people of Namwendwa are strong, beautiful, intelligent and resilient people. The other villages I'm coming to love have overcome similar difficulties and continue to develop and improve. While I don't know whether or not I will get to see Namwendwa develop in the next few years, I am thankful to bear witness to even this moment.
Looking through my western eyes, it's easy to get stuck on what is missing. I forget to revel in how MUCH of the most important things are already here - love, compassion, community, intentionality, deep relationships, resourcefulness, creativity, spiritual depth, generosity and natural beauty. Things that some of my American friends have only dreamt of and never fully experienced. Depth even I've only dreamt of having in my own life. Thanks to the progress in the other Hearts & Hope villages, I’ve seen what can happen when you place even the smallest resources into the hands of those who are eager to use them. The investment is amazing.
There's no real way to tell what will happen in Namwendwa or many of the villages just like it, but I have hope that change is coming, that transformation is already taking place.”
Indeed, the seeds of transformation were planted, and have now bloomed into something beautiful for these beautiful children and the future of the whole Butogonha community.
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.